by Linda W. Arms
For many of us with an injured brain, communicating requires some extra care and attention. We want to easily understand what is said to us without it requiring a lot more brain energy and frustration. When we were like everyone else, comprehending what is said was so much easier and we often didn’t give it a second thought.
As my previous two posts on this topic mentioned, there is SO MUCH happening that you don’t think about. The brain that is receiving the words/sentences is very busy as it processes all the pieces that make up the spoken communication. At the same time, there are many things happening around us that our just part of the environment we happen to be in such as a restaurant or in an office.
Many things add to the complexity of the communication which results in more work for the injured brain to sort through and get to what is actually being communicated. Here are a few more things that get in our way to easily comprehend what is being said to us:
- Distractions – there are always other things happening that distract us from comprehending the words coming at us. Things like TV’s or radios in the background, and other people having conversations requires those of us with an injured brain to work extra hard in filtering out those other things. It is also extra work to understand someone who is busy doing something else while they are speaking to us. Our brain is trying to focus on the words coming at us but at the same time we have to filter out the other activities the person is involved in. I’ve had a hard time focusing on a person’s words when they use a lot of hand motions as they speak. Even excessive facial expressions will interfere in my abilities to focus on what is said.
- Sarcasm, innuendo, and those other added complexities of communication – these are those things that require the listener to “read between the lines” of what is said. We have to analyze the implications of what is said not just understand the words. If we have an injured brain, we often just don’t get it. We tend to take things very literally. I’ve often felt left out when others laughed or reacted a certain way to something that was said because I couldn’t understand the innuendo or other twist on words.
- Words that sound like other words – an injured brain does not go down too many different paths in figuring out which word was really intended. When my brain was far less nimble, someone said something to me about “lox on the window”. Actually what they said was “locks on the window”. For some reason, I initially comprehended lox (the fish) – on the window. You can imagine my confusion which resulted in me losing the rest of what was said until I could figure out that they really didn’t mean having fish on the window.
Although comprehending what others are saying to us is more challenging for many of us after a brain injury, we have to remember that those “normal” people are just speaking like they always did and like we always did. They can help by paying more attention to how they are speaking to us and what is going on around you. We, with the injured brain, need to keep challenging ourselves to help improve our ability to comprehend. We can’t isolate ourselves. We can’t expect our loved ones, friends or caregivers to turn into robotic style speakers. It does get easier. Now after 7 years I actually understand things much more easily and I actually get most of the sarcasm, innuendo and other things. Now I can look back and actually laugh at how I reacted (or didn’t react) to things that were said to me.
See my earlier posts with tips on communicating with those of us with a brain injury: